Why did you choose a career in copywriting, and how did you get into it?
I’ve been a writer all my life. “I want to write” was my answer as a small child to anyone asking what I wanted to do when I grew up. Despite being a timid unconfident child, I found writing an incredibly freeing and empowering thing to do. I could make up the rules and break them too. What an amazing gift for a child.
However, I didn’t believe I could be a writer when I left school, and I was pushed into teacher training which I knew was wrong for me. I wrote for my university student newspaper and that led to me believing that perhaps I could make a living as a writer. My belief in myself has always needed encouragement.
I changed my degree to a BA Hons, and ended up living in South Africa for two years. It was there, when no one was looking, that I boldly applied for a job as an Assistant Editor for a backpacking magazine in Cape Town, which involved copywriting for any clients that came through the agency.
I had no experience but they assumed because I was English I’d write better copy than they could (I just nodded knowing that couldn’t possibly be true). I made lots of mistakes in that first job, but I believe I needed to. I had to learn how to be a copywriter, how to work with designers and how to hold my own and be brave.
I returned to the UK determined to land a job as a copywriter and learn the craft I loved. I applied for every copywriting job advertised in the Guardian newspaper and, after lots of rejections which I pasted up in my bathroom, I got two job interviews and two job offers. I was elated. Being brave, I chose the one that paid more but required me to relocate to Kent. It was the best decision I made.
I started to work for Saga Holidays and, to my surprise, I fitted in and learnt the role quickly (lessons learnt from my job in South Africa). I worked hard, absorbed as much as I could from more senior creatives, read a lot about the craft and worked my way up to Senior Copywriter within a few years. I had found my voice and it was loud! I’m still learning everyday, still learning from my mistakes, still loving every minute and I’m still loud and noisy.
What work are you most proud of?
Work that I’m most proud of is usually work that I get the biggest zing of excitement about. It’s usually my most recent project as I’m always focused on the next best thing. I’m an incredibly enthusiastic person and I get a buzz out of a new brief. I’m proud of the body of work I did at Saga Holidays.
When I started in the late 90s, copywriters did everything from radio scripts and brochures, to magazine articles and adverts, then when everything became more digitally focused we were the first generation of copywriters to write web pages and social media posts, e-brochures and Facebook banners.
Most recently, I find companies and organisations that have a mission that aligns with my values the most inspiring to write for. I’m incredibly proud to work with the British Heart Foundation as a Senior Copywriter working on all their creative campaigns, and to also write for Theatretrain who empower young people through the performing arts.
What piece of copy do you really wish you’d written?
I see amazing copy all the time and collect it in a nerdy way. At the moment, I love Ikea’s copy. I’m jealous of the humour the copywriters get to use. I also love Spotify’s campaigns with their “Dear person who played ‘Sorry’ 42 times on Valentine’s Day”. Funny, clever and memorable. I’m so jealous.
What do you do if you hit a bit of writer’s block?
If I hit a wall, I’ve learnt that it’s usually because of one of six things:
- I’m finding it hard to connect with a project in some way and I need to think more about why I’m writing the piece and what purpose it serves
- I’ve overthought the project and need to take a break to get some perspective
- I have too many questions that need clarifying by the client
- I’m feeling insecure about my skills and need to reassure myself
- I’m tired and need a nap
- I’m distracted by another project and I need to focus.
Whenever I start a project I go for a long walk to get my mind focused and to think freely about the ‘whys’. Walking is essential for me. I always tell myself that copywriting is a process and I just need to make a start. Every copywriter, no matter how experienced, fears they can’t do the next job. But they make a start.
What are your favourite and least and favourite writing-related tasks?
I love a new brief, thinking about why, where and who, and getting stuck into developing ideas. I love writing the initial drafts because it feels like playing. I like polishing my idea, presenting it to a client and seeing the designer work their magic. Those are the good bits.
But, with all that joy, there are some tasks that I’m not keen on. Trying to persuade clients not to mess with my copy is hard. Defending copy, that I know is strong, for weak alternatives put forward by non-copywriters is a tough task for me. I can, and do, stand my ground but I find it tiring.
Any copywriting pet hates?
I like breaking the rules when it has an impact. However, I hate it when copywriters do it in every sentence. I recently had to edit a well-known brand’s adverts where every sentence started with: but, so, because, and, or.
Break the rules, but don’t make breaking the rules boring. That’s not cool. It’s like a ten-year-old swearing in every sentence to shock their gran.
What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve been given?
I haven’t had much career advice. That’s probably why I’ve had to find my own way, and why I’ve never followed an easier set path. I read a lot of books though and I always stand by the philosophy of ‘keep moving forward’. Small steps every day will get you where you need to be. Next to my desk, on a post-it note, it says, “Everything you want to achieve is on the other side of fear”.
I also believe Brian Tracy was spot on when he said: “When you achieve complete congruence between your values and your goals, like a hand in a glove, you feel strong, happy, healthy, and fully integrated as a person. You develop a kind of courage that makes you completely unafraid to make decisions and take action. Your whole life improves when you begin living your life by the values that you most admire”.
When you work in an organisation or a company that you really believe in, that inspires you to do your best, everything aligns.
What advice would you give to people starting out on a copywriting career?
I think all new copywriters would benefit from a mentor, and whenever anyone reaches out to me I try and help. I think it’s important to pass on what you know. My first advice would be to reach out on Linkedin or on this platform and ask questions. Find a mentor.
Never be afraid to apply for a job you know you can do. You may not be able to do all the things on the job description, but don’t let that put you off. If you can’t get a job, start writing anyway. Ask a copywriter to send you a brief and get stuck in. Build up your portfolio. Make friends with new designers who want to work with real copy. Make connections.
Why do you find ProCopywriters membership useful?
I love ProCopywriters, and I find it a great source of information about everything copy related, and a fantastic community. When I went freelance, I felt like I had a base. I always read the articles written by fellow copywriters. Their great advice makes me feel connected.
It’s also useful for my clients as the website is well thought out so people can find me. I love the events as they are always relevant. I’d recommend joining as a Pro member. I’m proud to be a part of such a great team of people.
Where can people find out more about you?
You can visit my website: bluebookcreative.co.uk
Connect with me on LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/dianne-vanstone-556764152/
Have a look at my posts on Instagram: instagram.com/diannebluebook/?hl=en
Have a chat on twitter: twitter.com/diannebluebook
See my copy related pins on Pinterest: pinterest.co.uk/DianneBlueBook/